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Santini soaring like an eagle

Steven Santini is slated to join the Boston College Eagles in the NCAA next season. (Photo by Tom Sorensen)

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Steven Santini is slated to join the Boston College Eagles in the NCAA next season. (Photo by Tom Sorensen)

It was recently announced that Pittsburgh will host the second annual All-American Prospects Game next fall and with the NCAA’s Frozen Four also coming to Steeltown in a few months, western Pennsylvania is quickly becoming the place to be for prospect watching. In the meantime, the Five Nations tourney kicks off in Sweden Wednesday.

Let’s look at some of the kids making noise around the world today.

Steven Santini, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

America will be represented by the National Team Development Program at the Five Nations and Santini will be front and center on the blueline. A physical, two-way presence, he also might be the first member of the team drafted this summer, depending on the progress of forwards J.T. Compher and Hudson Fasching. But first things first, it’s all about protecting the flag.

“When you play other countries, it always gets heated because pride is involved,” Santini said. “But the tournament’s also great for development.”

For the New York native, part of his growth will come in improving his playmaking and scoring. Scouts love his competitive side and the youngster gets a great chance to hone his craft while playing for the NTDP. In particular, Santini enjoys the challenge of playing against college teams on top of a partial United States League sked.

“The biggest difference is the experience they have,” he said. “The college guys play like veterans. They don’t turn over the puck as much and if they get a scoring chance they’re going to bury it.”

Santini’s own NCAA experience will begin next season, when he hooks up with the powerhouse Boston College Eagles. A visit to Chestnut Hill made the decision elementary.

“The campus is beautiful,” he said. “The rink is great and they’ve had a lot of success lately. I fell in love with the whole program.”

And if he can help the Eagles win yet another national title, the feeling amongst fans will be mutual. Draft eligible in 2013.

Boo Nieves, C – University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)

It’s been a trying season to say the least for the Wolverines, but a weekend sweep of archrival Michigan State will help ease the pain. Nieves, a freshman pivot with great size, quickness and skill, tallied five points on eight Michigan goals through the two games, earning conference rookie of the week honors in the process. Drafted 59th overall by the New York Rangers in 2012.

Brendan Burke, G – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Playing for top-ranked Portland helps Burke’s 17-4-1 record, but the big keeper also has three shutouts in his past five outings, so it really didn’t matter how often the Hawks scored in those games. Burke is the son of ex-NHL netminder, Sean Burke, who is the current goalie coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. So it’s fair to say he’s had some great tutoring while growing up. Draft eligible in 2013.

Anthony Mantha, LW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

With size, speed and vision, Mantha has been an offensive juggernaut for the Foreurs. What is surprising is the 6-foot-4 power forward bull-rushed his way to 40 goals faster than any other player in the Quebec League, which boasts a dazzling array of talent up front this season. Draft eligible in 2013.

Colton Sissons, C – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Sissons is rocking a preposterous plus-39 right now, but when you’re enjoying an 11-game point streak, the pluses tend to add up. The aggressive and speedy center made six of those games multi-point affairs. He has already set his new single-season high in points. Drafted 50th overall by Nashville in 2012.

Artturi Lehkonen, LW – KalPa (Fin.)

Some scouts believe Lehkonen was misused at the world juniors, but the talented left winger will get a chance to really dominate at the Five Nations. Lehkonen heads into the tourney hot, with four points in his past three games in Finland’s top league. Overall, the smart teen has notched 13 goals and 29 points in 40 games. Draft eligible in 2013.

Justin Bailey, C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

There’s a whole lot of potential in Bailey, whose young career has been stalled by injuries. The Rangers have brought him along slowly, but now that upside is bubbling over: the 6-foot-3 project has nailed eight points to the board in the past five games, including a four-point outing against Erie. Draft eligible in 2013.

Kerby Rychel, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Rychel, a player scouts love because he gives you a bit of everything, is currently giving the Spits offense. The sturdy winger has seven points in his past four games and is a top-20 scorer in the Ontario League. Rychel, the son of Spitfires’ vice president and GM Warren Rychel, also drops the gloves willingly and has a running feud with fellow draft prospect Ryan Hartman of Plymouth. Draft eligible in 2013.

Brett Beauvais, D – Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings (NAHL)

A puck-moving defenseman who can run a power play, Beauvais has taken an unusual path to success. The P.E.I. native played at Ridley College in St. Catharine’s, Ont., before moving on to Kalamazoo in the North American League, where he was named defenseman of the month for January with 10 points in 10 games. Next up is the NCAA and Bemidji State. Draft eligible in 2013.

Willie Raskob, D – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (Minn. HS)

Raskob’s coach, Tom Ward, describes the University of Minnesota-Duluth commit as a smaller version of former Bulldog Justin Faulk, a standout defenseman with the Carolina Hurricanes. Raskob, at 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, doesn’t have typical NHL size, but his hockey sense and hands have churned out eight goals and 41 points in 44 games, leading his blueline corps in offense. Draft eligible in 2013.

The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.

For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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